Creationist debate

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Tue Sep 30 07:02:11 CDT 1997

At 10:02 AM 09-27-97 -0500, Hugh Wilson wrote:

>Thus, you are pretty much on your own with regard to preparation.  I
>have had good luck with the following approach:
>1.  Open with the importance of basic biology to medicine and
>agriculture (items the *audience* can appreciate) and the fundamental
>position of evolutionary theory in basic biology as reflected in
>college-level intro texts (would be nice to use K-12 texts but
>advances by the creationists have made this difficult).  Move from
>this to *education* and the need to train - especially physicians -
>using the most current data and theory from the biological sciences.
>This could also be expanded to *energy* via oil exploration,
>geology, the stratigraphic record, and dating techniques.  Focus on
>the complexity of living systems and the need to *rely* on
>*scientific* specialists (geologists/biologists).
>2.  Attack the academic credentials of your opponent.  If they are
>academics, they are usually engineers or chemists with no background
>in either geology or life sciences - get their cvs - *show* the
>audience their publications - *establish* their ignorance/bias at the
>3.  Don't follow paths that they expect.  These folks are usually
>well prepared but this preparation is based on past interactions
>with novice academics expecting a legitimate debate.  Don't allow
>the discussion to move toward detail that is usually not appreciated
>by the audience.
>The general 'take home' message for the audience would be, in
>essence:  We are discussing education in the biological sciences for
>future generations of physicians.  If you or your family encounter a
>terminal disease, do you want your physician to have an educational
>background in modern biological science or the old testament?
>That is at least one tactic.  I will copy this to a taxonomic
>listserve that includes some subscribers that might offer other
>perspectives or help on the 'flowering plant' issue.  Good luck with
>the debate.  Am glad to see someone from the academic community
>with the guts to engage - unfortunately, a rarity.

When I was younger and full of vinegar and spit, I used to tilt at windmills
myself.  Another useful tactic is to open by shooting holes in the Genesis
account.  Tabulating the numbers of species of animals in the world and
dividing by the cubits in Noah's ark is helpful.  Pointing out the
discrepencies between the Yahwist and Elohist traditions that have been
intercalated as one book is also helpful, i.e., Genesis contains TWO
sequences of creation; one version calls for animals in pairs, another for
two of the unclean and seven of the clean (of course ritual cleanliness
isn't defined until thousands of years after Creation,  in Deuteronomy).

One of course must be EXTREMELY careful NOT to do this in a tone that
suggests scientists are atheists who love to poke fun at the pious.  I was
always VERY respectful of the Bible, and those who accept it as faith, but
pointed out that IF we are to accept it as secular fact instead of
inspirational literature, then we must examine it for internal consistency
as we would any secular fact.  And in that, it is sadly lacking.  The
undergraduate course I had in the English department on "The Bible as
Literature" was very helpful in this approach.  Remember, your opponents are
working on the assumption thatr Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch at one
sitting, which, as I understand it, few serious biblical scholars have
accepted for over a century.

Thomas G. Lammers

Classification, Nomenclature, Phylogeny and Biogeography
of the Campanulaceae, s. lat.

Department of Botany
Field Museum of Natural History
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:     lammers at
voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317
fax:                312-427-2530

"One must remain aware of the
 real-world consequences of his philosophies."

                -- Phil Mole

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